The Lost Son Of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith

The Lost Son of Philomena Lee - A moving true story and a book you will struggle to put down. Read the book first before seeing the excellent film.

A true story of what happens when a young Irish girl (18) falls pregnant out of wedlock. A painful experience that any mother would be horrified at.

Learn more about the corrupt goings on of the catholic church and their adoption policies.

Plenty to discuss and ponder in this excellent book and you can also compare and contrast with the film that has recently been released.

About the Author Martin Sixsmith

Martin Sixsmith is a well educated British journalist, with an education from both Oxford University and Harvard in the US.

He has written several books, usually about Russia, as was posted there as a correspondant with the BBC in the 1980's and 90's.

In this film the journalist is played by Steve Coogan - rather apt given Martin Sixsmith has an association with various British comedy series.

The Plot

The plot of this very moving story is straight forward. At the request of the family of Philomena Lee, journalist, Martin Sixsmith, is asked if he can find the son of Philmena Lee, who had been taken from her in the 1950's & sold to an American family.

Philomena is sent to a nunery at a catholic church in Ireland to have her baby. Her family, unable to pay the $100 to release her, has to work in the kitchens and gardens and take care of her son for 3 years.

Philomena Lee is forced to sign waivers relinquishing all rights to her son. Despite many visits back to the nuns, they are unwilling to help her find her son.

Her son, at the same time, is also trying to find his real mother, with the nuns being extremely unhelpful too.

The story is told in very straightforward language yet it is a riveting page turner. This reader couldn't put it down! Will they finally meet and how?


The main character in the story is Anthony, better known as Michael, the name given to him by his American family. It is his story! We are taken through his time at the Convent in Ireland where we witness his Mother's distress when he is taken away from her.

But most of the action takes place in America. Here, brought up by a loving, caring mother but a less doting father, we learn of his huge academic success, his role in law & at the heart of American politics & the various aspects of his nature as he longs to find out about his roots back in Ireland.

Phelomena  is such a moving character as she longs to meet with her son again.

The film by contrast, looks at the events more from the perspective of Philomena Lee.


Parental Love & Roots.
This true story emphasises the deep love of a mother for her child & vice versa,  as well as the deep need for the vast majority of people to know where they come from.

Politics: There is some detail in this book about American politics; some readers might say there is too much but it is very relevant to the Michael's story.

Aids: Again, the writer spends  time illustrating American attitudes to Aids at that time & her refusal to meet the problem head on!

Book Club Questions

1.  What were the major differences between the way mothers & their illegitimate children were treated in the 50's & earlier in Ireland & those of today?

2. Were some aspects of the story more disturbing than others? Why?

3. What are the major lessons to be learned from the book?

4. Did you understand the reaction of Philomena's Irish family & many others, who sent their pregnant daughters to places like the Convent?

5, Did you feel there could have been more about Philomena in the story? Like her, could you have forgiven those who had caused you so much pain.

6. Can you understand Michael's actions as an adult & his desire to be buried in Ireland?


This book sparked some interesting discussion and as such got a 7/10 from our group.

The book is not what you could call "well written" but the story more than makes up for literary style.

There is a perhaps a little too much political information though for some that might be a bonus.

The writer reports conversations which he can't possibly have heard or known about in such detail.

Summing Up: This is such a good  Book Club choice & it is well worth seeing the film too. It will provoke tears, anger, heartache, disappointment & more. And above all it will provoke much discussion.

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